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Evil Eye Beads: Nazar Bonjuk

Last Updated on September 29, 2023

The Nazar Boncuğu (Evil Eye) is one of the iconic and traditional items of Turkey, born of the age-old "evil eye" superstition that one person can cast a spell on another by just looking. The history of the evil eye dates back thousands of years. In order to prevent bad luck from the “evil eye”, Anatolian artisans created blue glass "eyes" that "look" straight back at the spell-caster as if to say "I see what you're doing, and you can't get away with it!"

Design

No matter where you go in Turkey, it isn’t hard to spot this talisman. It is eye-catching due to its vibrant dark blue color and design. Furthermore, it really resembles an eye. In Turkish folklore, there is an omen that the Nazar Boncuğu protects people from evil and bad luck. 

History & Usage

Though the exact history is unknown, its usage in Turkish culture dates back thousands of years. You are likely to see blue beads hanging on the walls of homes and restaurants, dangling from the rearview mirror of a taxicab, or even as a piece of jewelry. They can also be pinned on babies' and children’s clothing to protect them. No self-respecting Turkish parents, no matter how worldly or sophisticated, would allow their precious bundle of joy to spend an unguarded moment without a nazar boncuğu pinned to its snuggly, sunsuit, or diaper.

The nazar boncuğu is not just for kids. I once attended a posh formal dinner hosted by a Turkish-American association in a luxurious Manhattan hotel. The elegant ladies were all in long gowns, the men in sharp tuxedos. Sure enough, one graceful lady circulated through the well-dressed crowd during the cocktail hour pinning nazar boncuks on frilly straps and satin lapels. Everyone must be well-protected!

What Does the Nazar Boncuğu Symbolize?

The nazar boncuğu symbolizes protection. In Turkish culture, it is a traditional practice to be protected from evil. It bewitches people with its charming look and vivid colors. 

On the other hand, contrary to what it is believed the evil eye has no religious significance, and few people truly believe in the evil eye superstition anymore. But it's an enjoyable tradition and a well-loved art that is part of Turkish culture, which means you'll see Nazar Boncuks all over Turkey.

Word Origin

Boncuk means bead in Turkish but the word nazar comes from Arabic and it means to look. It is believed that when someone is looking at you enviously it will cause bad things to happen on your side. In English it is called an Evil Eye because it looks exactly like an eye and it is used in a figurative sense.

Evil Eye Beads in Turkey

You can find nazar boncuğu almost everywhere in Turkey, it is so common to see it anywhere around you. The best evil eye charms are hand-crafted of blown glass in Turkey and appear in many shapes and sizes. Here are more examples and on-the-road stories about evil eyes. 

You'll see them on sale, especially in Turkish bazaars, souvenir shops, and handicraft shops. You can see it in different forms such as in the form of a bead, keychain, as a bracelet, or even on small safety pins. 

While wearing an evil eye charm may not offer ultimate protection, they make a great souvenir for yourself and others. 

-by Tom Brosnahan, updated by Duru Nemutlu.

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